CAIRO (Reuters) – Three demonstrators were killed when thousands of people protested on Friday near a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria over the staging of a play they said was offensive to Islam, security sources said.
The demonstrators were killed during clashes between police and the more than 5,000-strong crowd which had gathered near St. George’s Coptic church in the Mediterranean port city after Muslim prayers, the sources said.
Police used teargas to try to disperse the crowd, which had pelted police with stones and which regrouped on several occasions after prayer times through the day and evening, the sources said. They said protests continued late into the night.
Police formed a cordon to prevent the crowd approaching St. George’s church, prompting some of the demonstrators to try to storm another church nearby, the sources said, adding that dozens of police and protesters were injured in the clashes.
Coptic Bishop Armia denied accusations the play insulted Islam, Egypt’s official MENA news agency reported, as monitored by the BBC.
“Copts would never tolerate anyone insulting Islam,” Bishop Armia was quoted as saying.
He did not give details about the play or what it was about. Coptic officials could not be independently reached for comment.